The Yellow Names

Alec Hershman

On the table a memory has been prepared.
The worried hands of guests
invite you to rinse distinctions: albumen?
No, album—that other sealed place
where yellow light reaches in
from the riffled edges and distant relatives
look small and bland, wasting the exactness
they've come to since daguerreotypes.
None betray the ignorance of the wheel-tracks
shuffling off to the future without them.
They tried to reason with disease.
The photographs themselves are light as tinctures,
and organized by the hand of a witness
whose own hand came to desiccation
like a ropey grapefruit, tired of posing in its bowl.
Now slouching, the book cradled in your lap,
you give your whole morning to history
with its grimy leaves and small pale faces
which have a way of slowing down the day,
which is just what you need: round aspirin,
vaporous tea, and the brittle mineral
of your eyes growing over the story.